Police chief resigns: 5 Police Scotland controversies haunting House


An array of scandals, embarrassments and allegations have beset House and Police Scotland

CHIEF CONSTABLE of Police Scotland Sir Stephen House has stood down amid a storm of controversies. His decision to stand down, made public a year before his contract is due to expire, is the culmination of a series of scandals and allegations which have led to calls from opposition politicians for his resignation.

A death in custody, the failure to respond to a fatal accident, the stop and search of children, arming of police officers and allegations of spying on the media have all combined to help sink the chief constable.

As the future of the national police force House built hangs in the balance, CommonSpace look at the five key controversies that may have cost House his job.

Failure to respond to fatal car crash

On 5 July 2015 the police were notified about a car lodged in an embankment. It wasn’t until three days later that this report was responded to, whereupon John Yuill, aged 28, was found dead and Lamara Bell, aged 25, was taken to hospital for liver damage brought on by dehydration. She died four days later in hospital.

In March 2015 Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie had warned about the effects of cuts on police control rooms, claiming that at one control room in Midlothian around 1,000 calls had been lost in a single day.

Police Scotland has reduced the number of control rooms from 11 to five, saving PS6bn.

The death in custody of Sheku Bayoh

Sheku Bayoh died on 3 May 2015 after being restrained by police officers on a Kirkcaldy street. Nine officers were responding to a call concerning a man in the street “brandishing a knife”.

The Bayoh family claim that Bayoh was not carrying a knife, that he was restrained using batons, pepper spray and cs gas, and that he was still in restraints when he arrived unconscious in hospital.

Police Scotland has also been criticised for its handling of the IPCC investigation into the death. Stephen House met with the officers who had arrested Bayoh and who were under investigation, but failed to meet with the Bayoh family.

Stop and Search of children

In June 2014 Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson told a Holyrood committee that the controversial practice of ‘consensual’ searches of children under 12 would end. In February 2015 figures were obtained by the BBC which showed that stop and search of children under 12 had risen significantly.

The number of searches had risen to 45,436 in January 2015. Searches for drugs, alcohol and weapons met with a nine per cent success rate. One officer was found to have personally conducted 1,641 searches.

Guns on routine patrol

In April 2013, the first month of Police Scotland’s national operation, a policy was introduced to allow firearms officers to wear holstered handguns whilst on routine patrol.

Previous to this policy firearms had been kept in a safe to which only select officers had access. After being heavily criticised for the move by politicians and members of the public Police Scotland restricted the numbers of officers who could be deployed to specific incidents with guns in October 2014.

However, as late as April 2015 an officers on routine patrol was photographed with a holstered handgun in Inverness station.

Spying on Journalists

An investigation by The Herald discovered, in August 2015, that an elite Police Scotland outfit – the Counter Corruption Unit, had been using its special powers to uncover journalists’ sources.

The action was arguably and infringement on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right of journalists to keep their sources secret.

Picture courtesy of Linzi